Andhra govt partially demolishes GITAM university campus in Vizag for alleged encroachment
In an overnight drive, civic authorities in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam on Saturday demolished the compound wall and a few other structures of the Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management (GITAM) University, a prestigious private university at Rishikonda on the city outskirts.
The demolition followed a recent report submitted by Visakhapatnam revenue divisional officer (RDO) Penchala Kishore to the government, declaring that the university was in possession of 40.51 acres of government land which it had allegedly encroached upon during the previous Telugu Desam Party government.
GITAM University was promoted by former TDP parliamentarian late M V V S Murthy. It is currently managed by his grandson M Sri Bharat, who also happens to be son-in-law of senior Tollywood actor and MLA Nandamuri Balakrishna, son of TDP founder and former chief minister N T Rama Rao.
Incidentally, Bharat contested the 2019 general elections from Visakhapatnam parliamentary constituency on TDP ticket.
The demolitions which began after midnight went on till the early hours of Saturday. Apart from the main entrance and security chamber, the entire compound wall of the engineering and medical blocks was razed to the ground.
Heavy police forces were deployed at the demolition site, as the civic authorities closed the approach road towards the university. Later, the authorities put up a board declaring it as the government property.
An official of the GITAM University said the GVMC officials had conducted the demolition drive without issuing any prior notice. “We came to know only in the morning. We informed the higher authorities that the land issue is in the court. No marking was done for identifying the government land,” the official, who refused to be named, said.
The RDO, however, told reporters that the university had encroached upon over 40 acres of land and the GVMC authorities held talks with the university management several times. “We have demolished certain structures which were built in the encroached portion of the government land. In the next phase, we shall take some more demolitions,” Kishore said.
The demolitions evoked strong protests from the TDP. Party president and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu condemned the demolitions saying it was a clear act of vengeance against the political opponents in the state.
He said the matter was in court but the demolitions were initiated without waiting for the final verdict. “The destructive attack on a noted educational institution would be a big threat to the future progress and prosperity of the state as a whole,” he said.
He also pointed out that the university had provided medical help to 2,590 Covid-19 patients for which it incurred expenses of crores of rupees. Such a noble educational institution became witness to thoughtless demolitions overnight by over 200 personnel. “One who cannot build has no right to demolish, he argued.
Naidu’s son and TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh also condemned the demolitions at GITAM University. “The chief minister’s modus operandi is to create terror in the minds of all the people in Visakhapatnam and perpetrate his ruthless rule there,” he alleged.
YSR Congress party legislator from Anakapalle Gudivada Amarnath, however, made it clear that the state government would not spare anybody who resorted to illegal encroachment of government lands and properties.
He alleged that the GITAM university had encroached upon government lands worth ₹800 crore. “What is wrong in taking back the government land?” he asked.
He refuted the allegation that the government had not given any notice to the university authorities. “In fact, notices were served on the management five months ago,” he said.